The Tree of Knowledge: Etz HaDaat

Two stories below from Greek mythology share common threads with the story of the ‘forbidden fruit’ on the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. The rabbinic Midrash on the Forbidden Fruit presents the most famous biblical story of the first humans in an entirely new light.

Pandora:

Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus were Titan gods that pledged their loyalty to Zeus, the Olympian king of gods. Zeus gave Prometheus and Epimetheus the job of creating the first creatures to live on Earth. Epimetheus formed the animals and gave each a special skill and form of protection. Prometheus molded man from the earth and Athena breathed life into the clay figure. In the bible, Adam is formed from earth and God breathes the spirit of life into him.

Prometheus has no forms of protection to give man since Epimetheus had already given them all away. Prometheus asked Zeus if he could let man have fire. Zeus refused. Fire was a powerful and dualistic element that was only for the gods. Prometheus defied Zeus and gave fire to man anyway. Zeus was irate, punishing Prometheus for giving a gift of godly power to a mortal and punishing all of humanity for accepting the forbidden gift of the gods.

Zeus created the first woman, Pandora (meaning “All-Gifts”), and imbued her with many qualities from the gods. He then brought Pandora to Epimetheus to be his wife. Prometheus had warned him not to accept gifts from Zeus, but Epimetheus was too smitten with Pandora to resist marrying her.

As a wedding present, Zeus gave Pandora a jar (mistranslated to “box”), but warned her never to open it. Pandora, who was innately curious, succumbed to her urge to open the jar. The evils of greed, envy, hatred, pain, disease, hunger, poverty, war, and death flew from the jar out into the world. In a panic, Pandora hastily closed the jar, sealing hope inside, giving humans hope to survive the wickedness that had been released.

In the biblical story of the ‘forbidden fruit,’ eating it released the knowledge of evil and death upon the first humans, yet hope was never extinguished.

In a later and alternate story of Pandora, the jar contained not evils but blessings, which would have been preserved for humankind had they not been lost through the opening of the jar out of uncontrolled curiosity. Curiosity, or the epistemophilic drive, is associated with good or bad outcomes. 

Psyche:

Cupid’s wife, Psyche, had a box containing a cream that bestowed perfect physical beauty, but she had to descend into the underworld to obtain it for her mother-in-law, Aphrodite. Psyche is despondent over this seemingly impossible task, when suddenly the tower she is on begins to speak. The Tower informs Psyche how to find the entrance to the underworld, avoid the hazards that will entrap her and humbly petition the Queen of the Underworld.

Following the instructions, she obtains the cream from Proserpina, the Queen of the Underworld. As soon as she reenters the light of day, Psyche can’t resist opening the box out of desire to exquisitely perfect her own beauty. Psyche, the ancient Greek goddess of the soul, was once a mortal princess of outstanding beauty. The cream was not intended for mortal blood-lines and when she opened it, she fell into a deathlike sleep.

With the help of Zeus, Cupid brought his wife to Olympus, where she was given nectar and ambrosia to make her immortal.

In the biblical story, a talking snake presents a mixed bag of potential outcomes. In this story, it’s a lone Tower that symbolizes solitude and the ability to see from afar overlooking everything.

In Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah), the snake is a teacher that tells us when the inflation/adoration of Ego-Self is blocking us from communing with Source or the Divine Light. The serpent is a symbol of chaos, trickery and the Underworld, as well as a symbol of life, fertility, healing, medicine and rebirth.

The symbol of medicine (Caduceus), is a dual snake wrapped around a staff.

It’s a known fact that all medicines are poison, but not all poisons are medicine. All medicines were created on the basis of poison; otherwise they would not have a healing effect.

That is why a snake curled around a vessel with medicine is the symbol for healing used in medicine. This did not come from someone’s imagination, but from the foundation of all of nature.

Laitman Kabbalah

In the teachings of the Jewish Sages (Chazal), all of God’s creation in Genesis (every fruit, animal, plant, tree, body of water, the sky, the soil, the celestial bodies) was created to heal or reconcile human ailments of mind, body and spirit.

The Jewish mystics said every aspect of the universe contains forces that can raise consciousness or obstruct it.

If you haven’t already, check out The Forbidden Fruit Midrash and all the comments to it that bring many enriching insights, inquiries and analogies to the conversation. Many thanks to all for your wise and wonderful dialogue.

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14 thoughts on “The Tree of Knowledge: Etz HaDaat

  1. Excellent post! I have been very busy and finally had the opportunity to look at it. I find it very interesting how similar many stories are about the foundational beliefs of many cultures that are widely geographically distant. It makes you wonder if their contacts were similar but with slightly different descriptions or interpretations depending upon their culture. As for medicine, it is very true that they can be beneficial or dangerous depending upon taking them properly. I am very hesitant about the latest vaccines that alter DNA of the cells. This is the first time a vaccine did not undergo the strict testing regime before release. I don’t believe it’s coincidental that so many young people are having adverse reactions. It will be interesting to see where this all leads. As for your being your worst critic, I think that is a common tendency, especially among the best scholars and writers. Artists too! I think it comes with the territory and pushes them to greater achievements. For me, I very much enjoy your posts and appreciate your sharing your wisdom and insights!

    • Hi Phil! Glad you made it over this way. I’m with you in your hesitancy and cautiousness and have noticed the same uptick in health incidences in young, formerly healthy people.

      I don’t mind masking and social distancing when I go out into public spaces. I have always valued my personal space and was never a random hugger anyway. 😊

      You’re correct, all of us right brained, creative types tend to be our own worst critics. I’m grateful for your affirmation and I’m very thankful for your presence on this journey with me. I feel the same about your wisdom and insights! I always appreciate your thoughtful and in-depth commentary. It’s truly a joy to read. I too love exploring and noting the interconnections between the stories integral to different religions and cultures.

      I think I will post the d’var Torah for this Shabbat in a few minutes.

  2. That was an interesting quote from Laitman Kabbalah “ all medicines are poison, but not all poisons are medicine”. This is a timely quote because we have come through the ‘ Covid Pandemic’ and all the discussions and theories that have arisen regarding vaccines. The main discussion I have been reading up on is the Wuhan Lab and experimental vaccines, knowingly injecting dangerous viruses into mice to monitor the effects, in the hope that they can save humans from future pandemics. It seems to me that we are creating our own pandemics in labs, and we can’t leave well enough alone. I know medical science has made great strides for the benefit of all over the last decades, but sometimes it can be overreach. I say this from the perspective of someone who has been luck enough so far to not take medication. I believe, perhaps naively, that the constant use of medications does not let allow the bodies auto immune system to function efficiently, and we come to rely more and more upon drugs. Is that your interpretation of “all medicines are poison”. I would be interested in hearing your views. Thanks for the Greek Mythology, Abi, still one of my favourite subjects, though haven’t read it for a while.

    • Hi! Good to see you. I think the quote from Laitman Kabbalah is referring to the history of plant toxins and animal venoms being used in nonlethal doses as medicines to treat pain, illnesses and diseases, as discussed in the following article… https://www.amnh.org/explore/news-blogs/on-exhibit-posts/the-power-of-poison-poison-as-medicine

      That was my take on “all medicines are poison, but not all poisons are medicine,” but I think you made very good points that align with my thought processes. Overuse of antibiotics in humans and farm animals, for example, caused many dangerous strains of bacteria to become antibiotic resistant.

      It cannot be ruled out that lab experiments exposed us to Covid and potentially other viruses past and present.

      Medicine has eliminated many diseases (i.e. smallpox, measles, mumps, polio, rubella) but I do think our immune systems have been over-saturated by overreach as you said.

      Greek mythology was always a favorite of mine, as is connecting the dots between belief systems.

      Many thanks for reading and leaving your very thought-provoking comment. I love when aspects of a post spark new streams of dialogue. One thing leads into another.

    • I tend to agree that we no longer have a healthy balance between pharmaceuticals and healthy function of our immune systems and it seems to be getting worse for people of all ages…but most notably young and relatively youngish adults.

  3. Thank you, Rabbi Abby. This is a profound mixture of lessons. I learned a lot. After all these years, I learned that the story was Pandora’s jar and not Pandora’s box. It was a gift and was mean to star closed. When we are fortunate enough to be given a gift, it is best to say, “Thank you, God” and to live one’s best life. Pursuing even more beauty is vain and things will not work out well. Our creator wants us to be humble. We are mere mortals. The teachings of the Jewish Sages are beautiful. Everything in nature and human kind should bring us together in peace and good health. I learned from the snake. He was a great teacher. It is important to resist temptation and not engage in human greed. Pursuing to much non tangibles such as an over abundance of beauty, power, and money could manifest in pain and sorrow. Thanks, for the wonderful lesson. Your examples, are amazing.

  4. She’s alive! 🙂 You have to quit erasing your posts. That mirror one was good. You did miss a few abilities various spiritual groups attribute to them though.

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who has found similar stories in different teachings also.

    • Ha! The mirror post is in my drafts. I can republish it. The problem is, I’m my own worst critic. Thanks for the visit and the encouragement! 😊

      I can include more mirror attributes, but I’m always endeavoring to shorten my posts. LOL. I feel some are long/longish, but I struggle with condensing them. I love exploring interspiritual connections. Everything is in everything else.

      • I understand on that worst critic problem. I’ve let self doubt steal away most of my life. One thing I’ve learned there is to tune out any thoughts with a feeling of fear or dread attached to them. That’s darkness trying to hold you back. “Don’t do that”, when coming from the divine, has more of a concerned parent vibe to it.

        Post length: Well… Let’s just say I’ve gotten VERY cynical regarding the quality of the overall WordPress community. I’ve been tracking stats on my and other blogs, and typically, not even 1 percent hit the like button and about 1/3 of 1 percent will comment.

        As for the mirrors, the biggest thing that you left out is that multiple esoteric schools and some cultures believe that they can also reflect magic and spiritual attacks. 😉

        • Self-doubt is a robber and a thief, that’s for sure. In my case the self-doubt was planted from without and it’s very hard to rewire that blueprint on the brain. I don’t think we start out that way…it’s something that is instilled in us.

          I’ve been blogging on WP in some form or another since 2007 and noticed many changes over the years. I’m happy to see you here again. Missed you.

          Mirrors are so interesting aren’t they? There is a lot of guidance in Feng Shui about them. Thanks for sharing. It’s very much appreciated. 😊

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